Businessman Jeff Jafari pleads guilty to bribing City of Atlanta and DeKalb County officials to obtain contracts


Date: April 19, 2023


ATLANTA — Lohrasb "Jeff" Jafari, the former Executive Vice President of PRAD Group, Inc., has pleaded guilty to paying bribe money to two City of Atlanta officials in exchange for steering city business worth millions of dollars to his company, to paying bribes to a former Dekalb County official in an attempt to obtain county contracts, and to evading more than $1.5 million in taxes.

"Contractors and the public deserve a fair and impartial government procurement process," said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. "For years, Jeff Jafari corrupted, and attempted to corrupt, those processes in the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County by paying tens of thousands of dollars in bribe payments to several high-ranking government officials. Not surprisingly, after illegally obtaining city contracts he never paid a dime of personal income tax on millions of dollars he earned."

"Jafari bribed city government officials to avoid fair competition in bidding for government contracts," said James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. "Greed consumed Mr. Jafari, after being awarded the government contracts, he willfully failed to file tax returns reporting the income and pay the appropriate taxes undermining the American tax system."

"Jafari tried to buy his way around a process that is meant to be fair to all contract applicants, and in doing so contributed to the public's distrust in government," said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "Today's plea is the direct result of the FBI and our partners continuous hard work and commitment to end public corruption in the city of Atlanta"

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: From 1984 to 2018, PRAD Group was an architectural, design, and construction management firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, that performed services for the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County, Georgia. Jafari served as PRAD Group's Executive Vice President and oversaw PRAD Group's finances.

From January 2003 to February 2017, Adam Smith served as the Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Atlanta. From that position, Smith supervised the City of Atlanta's purchasing activities and its expenditure of billions of dollars of public money. From April 2011 to May 2016, Jo Ann Macrina served as the City of Atlanta's Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management. As Watershed's Commissioner, Macrina held a cabinet-level position from which she managed the City's drinking water and wastewater systems and was responsible for an annual budget exceeding $500 million.

Jafari gave Smith and Macrina cash and other items of value to obtain business with the City of Atlanta. In exchange for those payments, Smith and Macrina conspired with Jafari to ensure that PRAD Group received City business worth millions of dollars, including conspiring to replace two evaluators on the selection team for the City's Architectural and Engineering contract and to re-score an evaluation so that Jafari's company would be awarded a contract.

During Smith's tenure as the Chief Procurement Officer, the City of Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to PRAD Group and joint venture projects of which PRAD Group was a partner. For years, Jafari met privately with Smith on multiple occasions, frequently at local restaurants. During these meetings, Jafari and Smith discussed City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings, Jafari was actively seeking additional work and/or assistance with ongoing City projects. Jafari paid Smith $1,000 in cash in the bathroom of the restaurant after most of the meetings. In return for these bribe payments, Jafari expected Smith to use his position and power to assist Jafari with contracting/procurement with the City of Atlanta. From at least 2014 to January 2017, Jafari paid Smith more than $40,000 in cash with the intent to influence Smith in his role as the City of Atlanta's Chief Procurement Officer.

In February 2017, Jafari became aware of the federal investigation into his bribe payments to Smith and confronted Smith at City Hall. Jafari insisted that Smith lie to the FBI by denying that Smith took bribe money from him.

From at least 2013 through May 2016, Macrina met with Jafari to discuss City of Atlanta procurement projects, bids, and solicitations. Often at the time of these meetings, Jafari was actively seeking contracts, projects, and work with the City of Atlanta. To obtain city work, Jafari promised Macrina a lucrative job with PRAD Group and, directly or through a PRAD Group employee, gave Macrina $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai, a luxury shopping trip in Dubai, and landscaping work at her home. Shortly after the City of Atlanta fired her, Macrina began working for Jafari and PRAD Group. Between June and September 2016, Jafari and/or PRAD Group paid Macrina $30,000 in four separate payments.

On April 8 and August 21, 2014, the FBI conducted undercover operations using a confidential source (who at the time was a high-ranking DeKalb County official). During two surreptitiously recorded meetings, the confidential source met with Jafari at local restaurants, where Jafari sought assistance from the confidential source to obtain work in DeKalb County. After the meetings, Jafari directed the confidential source to the bathroom of the restaurants where Jafari paid the confidential source between $1,000 and $1,500 in cash.

From 2014 to 2016, Jafari neither filed personal tax returns, nor paid any income taxes to the IRS. During those years, Jafari withdrew large amounts of cash from corporate bank accounts and used money from the PRAD Group's accounts to pay for various personal expenses, including several luxury vehicles. Jafari evaded the payment of at least $1.5 million in taxes.

Lohrasb "Jeff" Jafari of Alpharetta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiratorial bribery, substantive bribery, and tax evasion. Sentencing is scheduled for July 19, 2023, at 11:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones.

The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Nathan P. Kitchens, Trial Attorney Jolee Porter of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, and Trial Attorney Todd Ellinwood of the Justice Department's Tax Division, are prosecuting the case.